Dear Amy and Anand


Neshia, Anand and Amy

By Neshia Alaovae, 2012-2013 Jesuit Volunteer Corps service volunteer. This entry was originally posted on Neshia’s blog: Take Gentle Care: A Service Journey.

It had been a full day, this last day. I had woken up that morning in semi-darkness after a night of blessed rest. For weeks, I had not been sleeping well. The DC heat certainly played a part in my insomnia, but most of my restlessness was from anxiety, racing thoughts, and shock. After a year of being certain that I would remain in DC, that I belonged no where nearly as much as I belonged to this city, I had abruptly and jarringly realized that what I really needed was to go home. The decision was the right one, yet as I laid in bed that morning, I couldn’t help but feel like a failure. Maybe if I stay in bed, I won’t actually have to say goodbye to Joseph’s House, I thought. Maybe no one will notice if I just don’t show up. Maybe if I close my eyes and sleep a little bit longer, I will wake up and be strong enough to stay . . .

I turned my Pandora onto shuffle and got ready for work at Joseph’s House one more time. I took deep breaths, encouraging myself to be fully present to this precious last day. I began to relax and hum along to the music. And then it came on: Bill Wither’s “Lean on Me,” the Joseph’s House anthem. My Krista cohort sang a rendition of the song right before I began my service year, and then weeks later I heard it played for the first time at a resident memorial. It has played 17 times since then. As I walked out the door, “Seasons of Love” from the musical RENT began: 525, 600 minutes, 525, 000 moments so dear, 525, 600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year? I shook my head and laughed. I can’t even make this stuff up. This is so my life.

As my last day at Joseph’s House was winding to an end, I sat in the living room. I have always admired how the light in the living room seems to capture the feeling of the whole house. On memorial afternoons, the living room is soft and quiet, like the candles we light to honor someone’s spirit. During breakfast, when the dining room across the hall is overflowing with laughter, food, and conversation, the living room practically shines as the morning sun fills every corner with light. For me, as if to reflect the ending of my time at Joseph’s House, the light looked like dusk. It was only 4 pm, yet it looked as if the sun was setting in the room. There were shadows and the feeling of calm permeated the air. It had been a day of blessings being lavished upon me, and as I sat on a comfy couch, I was overwhelmed by how loved I am.

To my right sat Amy, her hand holding mine, my head upon her shoulder. It was a posture that we have sat in since the beginning of our time together, as natural as the deep breathing that we had to learn how to do. On my left sat Anand, one hand holding coffee in his favorite mug (that I had made sure to wash for him), the other hand draped lightly across my shoulder. Anand’s last day had been weeks before, but he had returned for mine. That was natural, too. We sat there as the shadows deepened, laughing, talking, with no space in between us.

IMG_7417Each year Joseph’s House has 4 year-long volunteers from different sending organizations, but this year it was just us. Amy from Discipleship Year (founded by the church that helped start Joseph’s House), Anand from AmeriCorp’s Washington AIDS Partnership. Amy is always spear-heading a new project or activity. She is selfless and always asks the deeper questions. Anand always knows how to put people at ease. He sees the truth in situations and is able to bring things into a fresh perspective. Individually, each of us are great, but together, we have been pretty fantastic. From the beginning, they have been my dearest friends. No one else quite understands what it means to be a young, full-time volunteer at Joseph’s House right now except for them. Anand and I experienced our first death at the house together, Amy and I our first last breath. We learned how to cook with Crisco and how to parallel park the house van together. We got lost in DC and took cookies to the firefighters together. We have changed diapers together, gotten frustrated together, cried together (okay, fine, I did most of the crying), celebrated together. When I think of my time at Joseph’s House, I cannot think of it without Amy and Anand.

IMG_7817Somehow, we just fit one another. No drama, no competition, no resentment. We apologized quickly if we hurt one another. We humbly asked for help when we needed the others. We loved without needing to know everything. We just wanted to be together. Amy and I would get tea after dates to tell each other everything. Anand would come over to my house just to check in. The three of us went to a kite festival, happy hours, dinners, and West Virginia just to be with one another. We even have our own dance move. We recognized the unique nature of our relationship and were intentional about fostering it.

And now, it seemed fitting that I was ending my time at Joseph’s House in the living room, leaning on them. Months earlier in that room, we had done an activity in which each of us took turns embodying the mind, body, or spirit of the others. That is when the space disappeared between us. We know each other uncannily well, and I know it is because at one time Amy, Anand, and I were literally one.

Dearest Amy and Anand, thank you for knowing all of me so intimately and yet still choosing to call me your beloved. Thanks for knowing when to say something and knowing when to hold me. Thanks for the hours in the kitchen, and the days by bedsides. For the good times we wanted to live in forever, and the hard times when we didn’t think we could get through. We made it, and I know I could not have gotten through my dark times without both of you coming alongside me and believing for me that I would be okay, until I could believe it for myself. I consider it one of the highest honors of my life being able to be your friend. Both of you are incredible healers, with souls that challenge, enrich, and better everyone you touch. Every day, your shining examples pushed me to a more compassionate, hard-working, loving version of myself. I am a better person because I was a part of you two. Many bows to who you are, who you will become, and who you will always be.

With all my mind, body, and spirit,

I love you.

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